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 Welcome to the newest addition to the GPVSB website: Member Spotlight. This special feature showcases GPVSB’s most valuable assets– our members! Spotlighting members from across the GPVSB spectrum, Member Spotlight reflects the rich tapestry of our membership and profiles active Non-profit and business organizations. If you would like to be featured in this section please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Create your own member story: join GPVSB today! 

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A New Perspective

By Rachael Rode, Communications Specialist


Taylor Hurley, Mobile Addictions Outreach

Individuals with mental illness often face many barriers when connecting to their community and accessing the resources they need. Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) helps to bridge this gap and aid the at-risk, street-engaged population in locating, attaining and maintaining those necessary resources. I sat down with Taylor Hurley, the Mobile Addictions Outreach worker, to learn about the different services that this branch of CMHA provides.

CMHA has five different programs. The first is Mobile Addictions Outreach, which is in Hurley’s area of responsibility. “We work with the at-risk, street-engaged population in Grande Prairie, providing support and handing out harm-reduction supplies,” explained Hurley. This program also provides referrals to other community resources such as Alberta Health Services, addiction and mental health supports, housing supports, and various medical supports.

The second resource CMHA offers is Willow Place. This is an affordable housing complex for individuals living with a mental illness. CMHA also offers 5 other affordable family housing units.

The third aspect of the programming CMHA has to offer is the Hub program, funded by Alberta Health Services. The Hub seeks to improve the daily functioning of those with mental illness by providing activities such as cooking classes, day trips and picnics.

The fourth aspect of CMHA’s programming is their SPD program, which stands for Supports for Persons with Disabilities, funded through Disability Services. This program utilizes a unique one-on-one approach where a support worker can collaborate closely with an individual with a disability. Through this program, the individuals can access necessary community resources to better their daily lives. The relationship with the support worker also enhances the sense of community inclusion.

The final service CMHA provides is their Housing First Program, funded by the City of Grande Prairie’s Homeless Initiative. This program assists and supports individuals experiencing homelessness to locate, attain, and maintain housing. The Housing First program also includes connecting individuals with appropriate medical attention, addictions and mental health counselling, and landlord relations.

CMHA goes beyond providing the physical services and develops a relationship with their clients. “A big portion of our feedback is people saying thanks for being there, thanks for being a support,” Hurley said about the positive impact they have on individuals living with a mental illness.

Because CMHA is a non-profit association, they often rely on volunteers to help their programming run smoothly. The area of greatest need is the Mobile Addictions Outreach Program, which offers an opportunity for direct interaction. Volunteers will carry a backpack and give out supplies to those on the streets of Grande Prairie. About the experience, Hurley said that volunteers find it very rewarding. “It’s eye-opening. It gives you a new perspective,” she added. Volunteers can also help out at barbecue fundraisers and special events. Hurley hopes that through volunteering, volunteers can benefit by gaining a new understanding of the clients that they work with.
“CMHA is focused on building better mental health awareness programming in the community,” said Debra Stoner, the Executive Director. “We’re much more than Willow Place.” If you’d like to be involved, give them a call at 780-814-2349. Each program CMHA offers is tailored to help those living with an addiction or mental illness. By being a part of the services they offer, you might find yourself coming away with increased appreciation of our community and a fresh perspective.






Grande Prairie Friendship Centre


Bridging the Gap

By Rachael Rode, Communications Specialist


Kelly Benning, Executive Director, Grande Prairie Friendship Centre

Grande Prairie Friendship Centre celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. “We’re very successful and there’s a huge wait list for all of our programs, but we’re kind of a hidden gem,” Kelly Benning, their Executive Director, said with a smile when I sat down with her to find out about how this agency contributes to our community.  Although I had never been to the facilities, located just west of downtown Grande Prairie off 100 avenue, I was already impressed by the size of the building and the volunteers and clients inside who looked like they were having a great time. I was about to be even more impressed by learning about the array of programs that the Friendship Centre offers.

“All of our programs have a strong educational component,” Benning started. For the youngest ones, the Babies’ Best Start program provides nutritional information to young mothers. Next, their Headstart program is for preschool children aged three to five.  “Headstart is culturally based. The kids learn to sing, dance, drum, make regalia and jig,” Benning said. “We also have our Pintone program, a youth program,” Benning continued. “We have 48 kids in it right now.” There are different groups for kids ages 6 to 17. I had the privilege of touring the facilities after, and got to see one of the Pintone groups. Six- to ten-year-olds were having snacks and getting ready to make a traditional Aboriginal craft. As well, at GPRC, the Friendship Centre has an on-campus location, which is the only on-campus Friendship Centre in Canada.

The services Friendship Centre provides don’t stop at children and youth, though. Next, Benning explained the Mamewpitaw program, where Friendship Centre works with people who have intergenerationally been a part of the Children and Family Services system. They seek to help the healing process and to reunite families. In the large, open space at their facility, they coordinate outreach programs. “We work with at-risk people, homeless people, and street people,” Benning stated. They also host supper three times a week, where they serve anywhere from 50 – 90 people.  Similarly, they offer luncheons once a month for elders in the community. As well, I learned about a unique and entrepreneurial initiative for women. “Our Mikis program is the Cree word for ‘bead’. It’s a women’s crafting group that runs twice a month. We’re currently looking at opening up a gift shop,” Benning said.

I was already surprised that the programs Friendship Centre offers are tailored to every age, but I was most surprised to learn that the majority of their programming is open to non-aboriginals as well as aboriginals. Except for the Headstart and Mamewpitaw programs, which have been reserved for people of Aboriginal descent as per request of funding parties, all programs and events are open to the entire community. “Our mandate is to bridge the gap between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal community,” Benning explained. The Friendship Centre has certainly provided a diverse selection of programming so that it is well-equipped to reach individuals with equally diverse interests.

In the future, Friendship Centre is looking to set up healing and sharing circles for elders to assist them in dealing with loss due to the rapidly changing family discourse in modern culture. They also want to focus on women’s issues with initiatives such as Hug-a-Sister, Sisters in Spirit, and Walking with our Sisters, which promises to be an engaging community art show coming to Grande Prairie’s Art Gallery in June 2018. The goal is to grow the conversation about the issue of missing and murdered women. Involved in the project currently are 26 professionals from all walks of life and diverse racial backgrounds.

 Furthermore, the Friendship Centre also wants to work with families to discuss the importance of Aboriginal Education Bonds for their children’s futures.

“We’re part of the provincial organization,” explained Benning.  “There are 20 Alberta Native Friendship Centres across Alberta. And [nationally] there are 119 Friendship Centres from coast to coast.” Our local Friendship Centre’s efforts in programming to reach all members of the community has made it stand out on a national level. In 2013, they were ranked #2 Canada-wide.

As for the role that volunteers play in the organization, Benning acknowledged, “We work with volunteers every day. People volunteer in every program.” In the Babies’ Best Start, Headstart and Pintone programs, volunteers can work with the children. Volunteers can also cook and serve meals for outreach initiatives. Spirit Seekers is the largest youth conference north of Edmonton, which requires 50-60 volunteers to run. The Friendship Center organizes National Aboriginal Day in our local community of Grande Prairie, which is also volunteer-based.

Because the programming offered by the Friendship Centre is so diverse, there are volunteer opportunities for everyone. Training is provided, such as Traditional Parenting certification for those working in the children’s programs.

Benning welcomes volunteers as well as participants. “It’s for everyone. Everyone is welcome. Come and see what we’re all about,” she encouraged the community of Grande Prairie. If you’d like to get involved or just want more information, you can phone them at 780-532-5722. Tell the staff what your interests are and they can certainly recommend an activity that suits your strengths. “The biggest thing that GP Friendship Centre does is bridging the cultural gap and ensuring that Aboriginal people are educated, valued, and championed,” Benning stated. That’s a worthy goal that you can be part of today.

For more information on the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre please go to their website @ https://gpfriendshipcenter.wordpress.com/






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